Residents concerned about drinking water after chemicals found in groundwater

The former Wurtsmith Air Force base. (Source: WNEM)

Officials are keeping their eyes on a groundwater contamination that is ruining drinking water and moving closer to one of the Great Lakes.

That contamination has been traced back to Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda Township where excessive amounts of toxic foam were used to extinguish flames during fire training.

The base closed 23 years ago, but it was just in the last six years residents learned about the toxins making their way south to the Au Sable River and east toward Lake Huron.

Locals and officials have been working on a solution to stop the spread.

"There's a lot of concern over it and they're trying to figure out what to do about it," said Fred Vancleve, resident.

He lives near the former Air Force base. The air strip is where firefighting foam that contained perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, was used for years.

Government officials said those PFCs are in the groundwater affecting people who use well water in the area.

Vancleve doesn't know if his water supply has been contaminated, but he's not taking any chances.

"We used bottled water now. Yeah, filtered water and reverse osmosis at the hardware store and we'll do that until we get some answers," Vancleve said.

Lindsay Zanon is eight months pregnant. She has had her well tested for PFCs, but the results won't be ready for weeks. She said she's nervous about the wait.

"I know they said it's safe to shower in it, but you know we were still washing our fruits and vegetables and cooking with it," Zanon said.

As for her baby boy, Zanon said doctors have given him the all clear. For now she drinks bottled water, hoping for a better alternative in the future.

"I hope that they correct it and put whatever they have to, like maybe city water through," she said.

The city water in Oscoda is safe to drink. It's the residents with well water near the air base who are dealing with the problem.

Vancleve wants officials to fix the problem.

"I just hope that we get clean water to drink one way or the other," he said.

Mike Jones is upset about the discovery.

"I used to work for the Air Force here and we followed directions as best we could and now it's all wrong," Jones said.

Now Jones lives near the old air strip.

"I'm trying to figure out, do I need a filter? Do I need to hook up to water? The city water? Or what do I need to do," he said.

He was one of many residents that took part in an open house meeting.

"We'll advise them as to whether municipal water is available and in some instances in the areas of concern, there's assistance available financially to cover part of the cost to make a connection," Township Superintendent Robert Stalker said.

There's concern the underground plume of PFCs will make their way to Lake Huron. State DEQ spokesperson Bob Delaney said if it happens it won't have a big impact on the water there.

"When they sample our water there will be a little bit of PFCs in it. Will it be a level that's high enough to be concerned about? Absolutely not," Delaney said.

As for Jones, he just wants safe water from his tap.

"I need, deserve and have the right to have clean water in my house," he said.

Copyright 2016 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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